SHERMAN, TX-Hog hunting is growing in popularity as a sport and as a way to help area farmers protect property. But now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning hog hunters of an unseen threat that could be more dangerous than the hogs themselves.
According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, feral hogs can cause up to $52 million in agricultural damages. If you're hunting those hogs, you're also putting your health at risk.
John Mayo of Howe has been hog hunting for four and a half years. His hobby started as a way to help area farmers whose crops have been damaged by feral hogs.
"I've seen farmers plant 300 acres of corn and have a hundred acres rooted up the same night they planted the seed," he said.
Hunting the big beasts can be dangerous since some grow to weigh 500 pounds, but that's not the only danger they pose.
The C.D.C. said they can carry a bacterial illness called brucellosis.
"People get it from being exposed to cattle: cattle, pigs, hogs."
Infectious Diseases Specialist, Dr. Aditi Swami said people can get it when they're exposed to an infected animals' blood and organs.
"They need to protect themselves by wearing masks and wearing gloves when they're around animals, washing their hands," she said.
Dr. Swami said the symptoms are flu-like.
"It's usually a chronic low-grade fever. You can have undulating fever, the fever can go up and down and just be chronic. Fatigue, generalized body aches and pains, muscle body aches and pains, bone pain is also very common," she said.
But it can lead to more severe infections.
"It can lead to encephalitis, that's usually what it leads to. Meningoencephalitis," she said.
If diagnosed early, Swami said treatment is possible but recovery may take a few weeks to several months.
"For brucellosis, there's a lot of antibiotic treatments or tetracyclines and doxycyclines is a very good antibiotic that we use to treat brucella," she said.
Mayo said he knows how serious the illness can be, that's why he takes extra precautions and urges other hunters to do the same.
"We try to prevent that by using gloves when we gut, taking the entrails out and we soak the meat in ice for several days," he said.
Dr. Swami said if you think you have brucellosis, call your doctor immediately.